Famed Cunovo Water Sports Centre Completes Renovation with a Nod to the Future
Originally built in 1996 on an island in the Danube, the Cunovo Water Sports Centre in Bratislava, Slovakia hosted its first World Cup kayak event in 1997 and its most recent in 2013. To continue progressing with this growing sport, the Slovakian Federation tapped S2O Design and Engineering to lead a major renovation of the iconic dual-channel venue. S2O Design’s new channel configuration and incorporation of the RapidBlocs™ system gives Cunovo a better experience for recreation-level users, and adds a cache of features for advanced paddlers to play, train, and race at the highest levels.
“We love working on projects like this, but this one was a little more personal for me,” said S2O Design’s founder and president Scott Shipley, the three-time Olympian and World Cup slalom champion who also medaled for the U.S. at Cunovo in 1999. “We were fortunate to work closely with the Federation and with coaches who have been using the course for 20 years. That much insight and experience go a long way toward building a world-class whitewater competition venue that can evolve along with the sport.”
S2O Design’s work on the iconic venue included reconfiguring the channel layout and updating the obstacle structures. The unique parallel courses, which allow paddlers to change from one course to the other midway, had become outdated, and unfavorable conditions on the left channel made it largely unusable for recreational paddlers and not conducive for competitions.
S2O Design redesigned the left channel to integrate their patented RapidBlocs™ system, highly customizable three-dimensional obstacles that form the course’s waves, holes, drops, and eddies. The flexibility of the new system allows the operators to customize the configuration with the desired amount, type, and shape of features for any level paddler. The RapidBlocs system was also used for the newly built venue that hosted the 2021 Olympic Games.
Cunovo’s new competition channel configuration included repositioning the starting gate, adding a spectator-friendly features in front of the grandstand, and reconfiguring the bottom features on the racecourse.
The result of the renovation is better, more consistent whitewater throughout the channel, providing favorable conditions for both guided commercial operations as well as technical and endurance training and beginner to Olympic-level racing. The new configuration also makes Cunovo Whitewater Water Sports Centre an ideal venue for spectating and televised events.
“The reconstruction of the water slalom complex in Čunovo is an important milestone in the development of water sports in the Slovak Republic,” said Matus Stulajter, project manager at the Slovak Canoeing Federation. “In collaboration with Scott Shipley and the S2O Design team, we have managed to create a unique channel with elements that are nowhere else in the world. I believe that this unique project will contribute to the sustainable development of sports infrastructure in Slovakia.”
Cunovo Whitewater Park will host the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships Sept 22-26. The new course should help Slovakia return to a once-dominant position in whitewater slalom when it was part of the Czech Republic.
The Bratislava course is just one of many high-profile whitewater courses the S20 Design team is credited with designing, including the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., RiverSports Whitewater Park in Oklahoma City, and the Lee Valley White Water Centre in London, site of the 2012 Olympics. S2O Design is currently leading the design and development of Montgomery Whitewater, the new $50 million recirculating whitewater center in Montgomery, Ala.